Flailing, twisting, turning, damp, scowling. Scarlett could think of nothing better than a good night’s sleep, nothing worse than its fruitless pursuit. She hit the lights, lit a cigarette, grabbed a celebrity gossip mag from her bedside. That worked. Eventually. She dreamed of her childhood: country fields, the big climbing tree, Grampy’s farm. Grampy had been tall and thin, distinguished and quiet, with a tinge of the Old World manners that his mother, Katinka, had brought from Copenhagen.
Scarlett dreamed him consulting his pocket watch and, asleep, remembered the cousins’ rumors about that beautiful old watch. It had alternately descended from emperors, saved his life in the war, been dug up from the Titanic. Time had stretched on the farm — empty endless time stretched ahead and important steady history stretched back. The farm was rhythmic, living by the short cycles of the sun and moon and the longer seasons of harvest and drought.
One summer she’d been there when the cat whelped and the tumbling kittens came rolling through her dream, out from under the craggy tree. Scarlett had been allowed to have one of those kittens. So long ago. She’d always had a pet spot — in her heart, mind, apartment, life. A rotating cast of characters and species filling that post. What did she name that kitten? Ah, yes. Sherman.
I am queen of the helicopter parents. But there are enough of us that we are becoming a social problem. Here’s my story.
Thing 1 was coming, they couldn’t stop him, it was only 24 weeks and 3 days. Someone asked: should we try to save him? Well, yes. Yes! Ten days later, a team of doctors closed the door behind us to explain brain bleeds, sepsis, meningitis. Shall we pull the plug? Well, no. No!
Babydaddy laid hands on him every day, massaged him when he was ready. For the three months he was in intensive care, and the three weeks at an intermediate hospital, I would get up in the night and pump breast milk, thinking about my baby across town. Babydaddy delivered it every morning, earning the name “milkman.” It was funny.
We had every therapy going for as long as possible: early intervention, the intermediate unit, private therapies. Terms multiplied: sensory processing dysfunction, sensory integration problems, orally defensive, auditory sensitivities, comprehensive developmental delay, cognitive function impairment, retinopathy of prematurity. He did occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, play therapy; we consulted with a neurologist, school psychologist, wraparound service provider, developmental specialist. He worked with an occupational therapist for a year and a half to tolerate teeth and hair brushing.
Not surprisingly, parenting didn’t feel natural. I learned to read to my baby watching Phyllis, our physical therapist. Voices, commentary, labeling colors, counting… she was very good! Merging professional research skills with my genetic propensity for silliness (mom was class clown, dad’s distantly related to Lucille Ball), my mothering style came together. Eventually. But I still channel Phyllis on occasion.
Thing 2 was full term. They are complete opposites; she is a sensory seeker with a wild sense of adventure and an inventive sense of fashion. Keeping them both busy and happy is an exasperating and sweet challenge. I still believe that every day can be fun and educational while reinforcing kids' boundaries. I’m on a mission to save us helicopter parents from ourselves. No more bubble wrapped kids and guilty parents. Let’s teach them coping skills. Let’s get fun.